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St. John Ervine - Belfast writer whose plays still ring true.


Well-known member
Apr 30, 2010
An interesting piece from the Irish Times Archive yesterday

October 22nd, 1912 - The Irish Times - Mon, Oct 22, 2012

led me to discover another Belfast born writer, St John Greer Ervine (1883 - 1971) , whose works might be of interest. Especially as the Play, The Magnanimous Lover, touches on a lot of issues that are still sensitive today. Illegitimacy, status, religion, hypocrisy,misogyny and the rights of women.

The Magnanimous Lover.

Samuel Hinde. He's doing queer and well in the shop. Aren't you, Henry?
Henry Hinde. Aye, the Lord has prospered me. I have two assistants and a vanman. The minister thinks a terrible lot of me. He took a fancy to me the minute he saw me in the chapel.
Mrs. Cather. Chapel! You've not turned a Catholic, are you?
Henry Hinde. No, Mrs. Cather, I'm a Protestant, thank God. They call churches chapels in England unless they're Episcopalian places of worship. They call us Dissenters and Nonconformists, and they think, far more of Catholics than they do of us.
Mrs. Cather. Heth, it must be the queer funny place.
Henry Hinde. But Catholics have souls to be saved, the same as Protestants. We should never make little of them that has not been born so enlightened as ourselves.
Mrs. Cather. Aw, indeed, many's the time I've said that. Sure, there's good and bad alike in all religions.
Henry Hinde. There's no bad in my religion, Mrs.
Cather. There's no room for bad where God is.
Mrs. Cather. Aw, well, maybe you're right.
Henry Hinde. I am.
Mrs. Cather. But sure, it's not worth fighting about. Maybe, we're all wrong. You never know.
Pages 6-7.

Maggie Cather. Aye, but you think I'm a bigger sinner nor you were ; and if I was saved, too, you'd still think I was worse nor you, wouldn't you ?
Henry Hinde. I would.
Maggie Cather. Why would you ?
Henry Hinde. Because you're a woman. Because it was through women that sin first came into the world to damn the souls of men. Because it's women that keeps sin in the world with their shameful, lustful bodies. God Himself came down from Heaven to save men from their sins, and suffered the pangs of hell that they might be saved, and sin be swept out of the world. But man turns from the high God to the low woman to his own damnation, and God may weep in His Heaven for the souls of men for ever, and no man will heed Him. Aw, the sin and the shame that women have brought into the world ! Every soul that writhes in hell was sent there by a woman.
page 15

The magnanimous lover : a play in one act : Ervine, St. John G. (St. John Greer), b. 1883 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

And the introduction from The Orangeman, a play I have just started:

It is the afternoon of "the eleventh night" of July 1912. On the morrow, "the twelfth of July" the Orange procession will walk to "the Field." John M'Clurg, a grey bearded man, over fifty years of age, is seated in an arm-chair before the fire, reading the "Belfast Evening Telegraph." He is a man of forceful character, quick in his speech and temper. He is very strong, without being very wise, and he is what the Belfast people call "a fine man"—that is to say, he is a sober, industrious, decent bigot, with a mind like concrete; he believes in hell-fire and predestination, and smells the devil in every Catholic who passes the door of his small kitchen-house in Ballymacarrett, a working-class suburb of Belfast. He is a kindly man up to a point, but he has modelled his conduct on that of the patriarchs in the Old Testament, and he tries to rule his family as if it were a community of performing rabbits with himself as trainer. He has many fine qualities, but they are negatived by a narrow nature and a revolting religious belief. His mind is full of dull angers and ancient rages which, this being "the eleventh night" when the Orange arches are erected in Belfast, are very lively at the moment.
Page 101, The Orangeman, Four Irish Plays (1914)

Four Irish plays: Mixed marriage; the magnanimous lover; The critics; The orangeman : Ervine, St. John G. (St. John Greer), b. 1883 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

It would be great if these plays were commissioned for TV in the same way as Graham Reid’s Billy trilogy were in years gone by instead of the rubbish we are fed these days. We have a wealth of neglected talent.

(note to mods - these plays are out of copyright)


Well-known member
Feb 25, 2011
Interesting OP. His novel The Foolish Lovers is worth a read. It begins:

IF you were to say to an Ulster man, 'Who are the proudest people in Ireland ? ' he would first of all stare at you as if he had difficulty in believing that any intelligent person could ask a question with so obvious an answer, and then he would reply, 'Why, the Ulster people, of course !' And if you were to say to a Ballyards man, 'Who are the proudest people in Ulster?' he would reply ... if he deigned to reply at all ... 'A child would know that ! The Ballyards people, of course ! '


Well-known member
Apr 20, 2012
Some nice plays. I liked "The Critics" especially. I suspect many a writer have felt like writing something similar.